I’ll be at the helm for the next few weeks, sharing global stories from my office in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Women have a right to be free of abuse at all stages in life, including during and after pregnancy and childbirth. Yet, some women face abuse, mistreatment and disrespect during those times. It can come from doctors, nurses or anyone involved in the woman’s care.
In May, Brazil’s Ministry of Health issued a directive for the government to stop using the term “obstetric violence” in public data and guidelines that describe these situations. A backlash ensued, which pushed the ministry to concede that women are allowed to use the phrase to talk about the topic. It didn’t change how the government itself used the term, however.
As a result, there’s been more discussion about the treatment of pregnant women in Brazil. Andrea Martinelli, women’s editor for HuffPost Brazil, said the site published freelance reporter Ana Ignacio’s piece about this type of abuse to address the ministry’s actions and also “to shed light on some issues like this which are, like psychological violence, often overlooked by society.”
The mistreatment can come in many forms, including performing procedures on a woman’s body without explanation or consent; making embarrassing, insulting or humiliating comments; scheduling a C-section without medical consideration or the woman’s consent; and not providing proper nutrition or hydration during labor.
A 2014 study found that 1 in 4 Brazilian women had faced obstetric violence, though the actual number is thought to be higher.
“They hesitate to speak up, they are afraid of the system, and for every three who don’t report it, there are certainly more women who suffer without knowing that it was violence because they think it is normal,” one obstetrician told Ignacio.
And concern about abuse during childbirth extends far beyond Brazil’s borders. The World Health Organization has called for more action, research and discussion of the issue.
Martinelli is looking at ways HuffPost Brazil can further cover the topic of obstetric violence and the women it affects. In the meantime, Brazil had a more empowering moment in women’s rights this week — it celebrated the 13th anniversary of a groundbreaking domestic and family violence law.
Thanks for reading,
Readers of Portuguese can follow Andrea Martinelli (@DeaMartinelli) for more stories about gender issues and the LGBTQ community, and follow HuffPost Brazil (@HuffPostBrasil) for more stories from Brazil and beyond.
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